‘Stay Gold is a biography of my late best friend Daniel. He passed on at 25 from a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. If you’ve heard of babies born with a hole in the heart, that was the structural defect that Daniel lived with.
When Daniel was born, doctors told his parents that he had to go for open heart surgery for any chance of living past childhood. Open heart surgeries are really invasive; they cut your chest open and see right through your ribs.
Fortunately, he survived the surgery when he was just 14-months-old and was able to live a mostly healthy life. But when he was in his early twenties, he had to go through two more surgeries, and that’s when more complications occurred with his heart and other organs.
I was actually overseas during the last few weeks of his life. I had a few missed calls and only found out that his condition had taken a turn for the worse while I was midway through my trek in Nepal. I pulled out from my trip and went back home.
When Daniel passed on, there were about 20 of us in the ward. He was on painkillers but unconscious, and you could see the numbers indicating his heart rate falling on the screen. When it eventually went down to zero, we all cried.
We didn’t call the nurses because we didn’t want him to be resuscitated, and as much as his mother loved him, she wanted him to go in peace. It was the saddest moment of my life, but it was also very beautiful and poignant because he was surrounded by those who loved him.
When Daniel and I were together, we loved Death Cab for Cutie. They have a song called ‘What Sarah Said’, and there’s a line that asks, ‘Love is watching someone die; so who’s gonna watch you die?’ We always wondered if it’d come to that, but it just didn’t seem real then.
Yes, Daniel was also my boyfriend. We got to know each other because we both took theatre studies in JC. When we broke up after five and a half years of being a couple, we remained best friends as we had spent our formative years together and understood each other so well.
We were able to talk about a lot of things as friends, like the people we were dating and what not. One day, he told me I should write a book because I have this tendency of writing story-like captions on Instagram.
That’s when I had the idea of writing a book about him. I wanted to tell his story because he truly lived a full life, even if it was only 25 years long. Because he recognised that any day could literally be his last, he did so much with the time that he had and touched lots of lives.
Everyone whom I’ve interviewed for this book talked about how he inspired them to be better versions of themselves. For instance, he helped a friend get over his drug addiction by hanging out with him whenever he had an urge to get high.
For a friend in need, Daniel was able put his heart issues aside. Facing a question mark on his mortality, he showed how being present is sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone. That was ultimately the legacy he left behind in this world.
No, I didn’t get to have many conversations with Daniel about the book, but in the last few weeks of his life, I told him that I couldn’t alleviate what he was going through, but I’ll finish the book that we started. That was the last promise I made to him.” – Clara Lock, 28
Grab your copy of ‘Stay Gold: An Almost Healthy Boy in a Mostly Healthy World” here
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